Kerala film institute, students call off strike
The main demand of the students was to remove the director of the institute. The director Shankar Mohan has resigned and the state government will appoint a search commission chaired by TK Ramachandran to find a new director

Film institute students call off protest after peace talks with Kerala government

The students of the government-run K R Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts in Kottayam called off their agitation on Monday (January 23), after the Kerala government held conciliatory talks with them at Thiruvananthapuram.

The representatives of the protesting students held peace talks with higher education minister R Bindu who informed them that a search committee has been formed to appoint a new director for the institute.

After announcing that the students have ended their weeks-long protest, the minister said the various commissions appointed by the state government have given many suggestions to improve the institute’s quality.

“We have discussed all the recommendations with the students,” Bindu told the media at Thiruvananthapuram. She said the main demand of the students was to remove the director. “He resigned from his post on Saturday. We will appoint a new director and a search committee has been constituted for that purpose. The committee will be chaired by T K Ramachandran with Shaji N Karun and T V Chandran as members,” she said.

The director of the institute, Shankar Mohan, had resigned from his post on Saturday, weeks after a section of students and staff alleged caste discrimination among other complaints against him. The institute had been embroiled in controversy for some time after a section of students levelled charges against Mohan.

Also read: Kerala film institute strike: Impasse continues as govt forms committee

Considering the protest by the teachers and students against the director, the state government had appointed a two-member panel, comprising former chief secretary K Jayakumar and the former vice chancellor of NUALS, N K Jayakumar, to probe the matter.

The committee had recently submitted a report to the chief minister.

The committee had met the students and staff of the institute and collected the details with regard to the allegations, which also include undermining of reservation norms in students admissions.

Bindu said the reserved seats that are lying vacant will be filled up soon and the confusions regarding the reservation norms will be cleared before the next academic year. “There was an allegation that the director used the staff of the institution for his household work. That cannot be accepted. We will ensure that such mistakes are not repeated,” the minister said.

She also added that a complaint redressal committee for the students will be formed at the institute.

Earlier, a higher education department committee had recommended changing the director and conducting an investigation into the allegations against him. The issue came to the fore after some cleaning staff of the institute complained that the director’s wife used to make them clean the toilets of her residence.

Institute chairman Adoor Gopalakrishnan had come under severe criticism from a section of former students after he allegedly backed Mohan and made a “slacker” comment against one of the teachers who supported the protest by the students.

Gopalakrishnan, a Dadasaheb Phalke award winner, was also widely criticised by a section of social media users for his stand on the issue. This had prompted senior CPI(M) leader M A Baby to come out openly in support of Gopalakrishnan and said portraying the filmmaker as a casteist person was condemnable.

Baby had said Gopalakrishnan is a strong critic of the “Manuvad-semi-fascist government” of the country and a life-long secularist. The CPI(M) leader had said the filmmaker should not be evaluated based on the answers he gave to provocative questions by journalists.

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